Pregnancy as a Rite of Passage

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No matter how old you are when you find yourself pregnant, it is always the beginning of a major change in the way life is both lived and perceived.  Pregnancy is common enough that few women get the opportunity to celebrate the transition between their single life into motherhood as the true transformation it is.  Pregnancy and childbirth are rites of passage which morph a woman into a new creation.  Bringing a child into the world is not only about birthing a new being, but birthing a new woman as well.

Often pregnancy comes as a surprise to women – either alone or with their partners.  Sometimes babies are planned and anticipated from the start.  No matter how it happens, women who were previously without child who get pregnant, inevitably move through a process throughout their pregnancy which prepares them for their new life as a mother.  This process can feel like a stripping away of the old self to such a degree that many women lose a sense of who they are, still uncertain of who they are to become.  It can be both frightening and exhilarating.

It doesn’t matter if you are 16 or 42, getting pregnant and birthing a child will change the way you view yourself and reality forever.  There is nothing quite like the experience and unless you have been through it, you cannot comprehend completely the transformations that occur within a woman when she bears a child.

Besides bodily changes which occur such as hormones and physical shifts to accommodate a new being, both inside and outside the body, a woman’s psychology and physiology is also rewired in preparation for the never-ending connection between her and the child she will bear, which never ever goes away.  A woman who has a baby is never a single woman again, even if she loses her little one.  The mentality of one who has gone through pregnancy and childbirth will always retain the transformative power of womanhood at its height.

Many women today have started to recreate ceremonies which initiate women into the rite of motherhood called Blessingways – or something similar.  A Blessingway is an opportunity for other mothers and women to bless a new mom and help her make the mental and emotional shifts necessary to embrace motherhood anew.  It is a releasing ceremony for the single woman who has existed, an opportunity for a woman to let go of her old ways, her old life and surrender to something completely new.  Though women have long given each other baby showers to provide resources and supplies to a new mother, it is quite another thing altogether to recognize the major life-transformation that is about to occur for a woman giving birth.

In today’s world, the use of pain medications and other birthing interventions have numbed the experience of birthing to such a degree that many women miss out on the passage ceremony that happens when they must harness the inner strength required to give birth.  Though these medical interventions can be life-savers in emergency situations, they are used far too often and at the expense of the birthing woman – who is stepping into a new, powerful state of being as a mother.  Women need the birthing process to properly equip them with the fortitude, endurance and self-confidence needed to mother their new children without fear.

Associate professor of midwifery at Nottingham, Denis Walsh believes procedures and the use of epidurals, which has doubled over the past few decades,  are stripping women of the crucial part of birthing:  “Over recent decades there has been a loss of ‘rites of passage’ meaning to childbirth, so that pain and stress are viewed negatively.

Many women may argue that despite their medicated births or C-sections, they still have found a power in motherhood.  I will not disagree, I am simply pointing out the gift inherent in the birthing process that can only be truly known when experienced.  Pregnancy and childbirth are rites of passage for women leaving behind an old self for a new life as mother.  Pregnancy is more than growing a baby and childbirth is deeper than bringing a new being into this world, though these things are certainly true and honorable.  The part that gets so often overlooked is the transformation of the woman who is being born anew with each birth, especially her first.

May we begin, as sisters, brothers, husbands, friends and health care providers, to honor the rite of passage that is pregnancy and childbirth, so that the women of today’s world can feel empowered and strong in their role as mother and goddess.  There is nothing more beautiful than a woman who has discovered her true power and divinity through birthing a child.  Strength realized during the birthing process is unparalleled by any other single experience in life.  May we hold women up and encourage their self-confidence, self-acceptance and self-love by recognizing the change taking place within them as they bring new life into this world.

None of us would be here without our mothers.  Our moms went through a great shedding of their previous selves in order to agree to our lives existing.  For some of them it was a big choice, for others, an act of surrender to what was.  Every woman changes as she leaves behind the world she knew alone to enter a world where someone else is forever connected to her, as an extension of herself.  Let us honor pregnancy and childbirth as the rite of passage it is so that new moms can step into the roles before them feeling safe-guarded and seen by the society in which they find themselves.  When we can do this as a people, the whole world will no doubt transform.

(Op-Ed)

Written by: Stasia Bliss

Nursing Times; Rebelle Society

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